Health Care Management

Health care is the largest industry in the United States. More than 18 million people work in the industry, and employment is growing rapidly, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Health care workers diagnose, treat, and administer care to patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The health care system is comprised of a wide variety of medical facilities that are located throughout the country. Hospitals are the best-known health care facilities. They provide comprehensive medical care to patients. Services range from emergency care, to diagnostic medicine, to surgery, to general care. Nursing and residential care facilities provide medical services to people who need continuous care, but do not need to be hospitalized. Offices of physicians and other health care professionals consist of small groups of medical professionals who work together to reduce practice costs. These physicians see patients with problems ranging from the flu to serious diseases, such as cancer or heart disease. Group medical practices are similar to offices of physicians, but they often have hundreds, and even thousands, of doctors on staff. Rehabilitation centers help people recover from stroke, injuries, or other medical conditions. Diagnostic imaging centers provide imaging services such as radiography and sonography. Urgent-care facilities provide care on an unscheduled, walk-in basis to people with illnesses or injuries that are not serious enough to cause them to go to a hospital emergency room. Home health care services provide medical and nursing care to patients in their homes. Additionally, some medical professionals work at health care consulting firms, providing their expertise to the various industry sectors.

It takes skilled managers to manage these facilities and keep the health care system running effectively to serve the needs of patients. Health care managers direct the operation of hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care organizations. They are responsible for facilities, services, programs, staff, budgets, and relations with other organizations.

Approximately 300,000 health care managers are employed in hospitals; group medical practices; offices of physicians, dentists, and other health practitioners; and centers for urgent care, rehabilitation, and diagnostic imaging. Opportunities are also plentiful in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, home health care agencies, adult day care programs, life care communities, and other residential facilities. Health care facilities are owned by state and federal governments, religious and other nonprofit organizations, and for-profit companies such as Universal Health Services, Hospital Corporation of America, Community Health Systems, Tenet Healthcare, DaVita, Health Management Associates, Kindred Healthcare, and Vanguard Health Systems—all of which made the Fortune 500 in 2011. Some health care managers work for health care consulting firms or own their own consulting businesses. There are also rewarding careers available with the military and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Health care is big business. Total U.S. health care expenditures reached $2.9 trillion in 2013, according to Plunkett Research, Ltd. Industry expenditures broke down as follows: hospital care ($929 billion), physician and clinical services ($588.8 billion), prescription drugs ($262.3 million), nursing home and home health ($238.6 billion), and dental care ($116.6 billion). These large expenditures translate into excellent job opportunities for health care managers, who, in addition to managing employees and facilities, are needed to help manage budgets and reduce expenditures while still providing quality health care services to patients.

Jobs for those in health care management range from chief executive officers, who lead entire facilities, to department heads, who are responsible for a single department at a hospital or other health care facility. Such departments include nursing administration, finance, government relations, marketing and public affairs, patient care services, and others. Jobs in health care management exist at many levels and provide opportunities for people with a wide range of skills and experience. Medical knowledge is not always required, and many of the jobs typical of any large company or organization exist in health care, with the bonus that they are likely to be in demand in the future as the need for health care grows.

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